As part of a larger evaluation of school nutrition programmes (SNP), the present study examined programme coordinators’ perceptions of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) regarding their SNP and public health professionals’ support.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty-two of eighty-one programme coordinators who had completed a programme evaluation survey. Interviews followed a SWOT framework to evaluate programmes and assessed coordinators’ perceptions regarding current and future partnerships with public health professionals.
The study was conducted in a large, urban region within Ontario.
The twenty-two coordinators who participated represented a cross-section of elementary, secondary, Public and Catholic schools.
SNP varied enormously in foods/services offered, how they offered them and perceived needs. Major strengths included universality, the ability to reach needy students and the provision of social opportunities. Major weaknesses included challenges in forming funding partnerships, lack of volunteers, scheduling and timing issues, and coordinator workload. Common threats to effective SNP delivery included lack of sustainable funding, complexity in tracking programme use and food distribution, unreliable help from school staff, and conflicts with school administration. Opportunities for increased public health professionals’ assistance included menu planning, nutrition education, expansion of programme food offerings, and help identifying community partners and sustainable funding.
The present research identified opportunities for improving SNP and strategies for building on strengths. Since programmes were so diverse, tailored strategies are needed. Public health professionals can play a major role through supporting menu planning, food safety training, access to healthy foods, curriculum planning and by building community partnerships.